Sunday, April 18, 2010

Glendene Grant: Human Trafficking is taking front stage - Jessie's case is smack in the middle of it all!

The 1st Annual Walk With Me "Glendene and Jessie Foster" Award Ceremony was in Toronto, ON on Thursday, April 15, 2010 and it was an honour to have been able to attend.

For that I have to thank Hayley Cooper, from Radio NL, for doing so much to ensure it happened. Thank for Hayley for getting Louis McIvor to donate the WestJet Buddy Passes (I got my flight tickets to Toronto and back for just $70 each way with them) AND for getting Kevin White, from Sandman Hotel Group / BC Interior, to talk to the Sandman Signature Hotel in Toronto, and getting me a complimentary room (did I say room - I meant: PENTHOUSE SUITE for 2 nights . . . yes, it was the most amazing room I have ever had. It was like an apartment with a kitchen - fridge, stove, microwave; a huge bedroom with a king-size bed and a corner hot-tub. Even a washer & dryer! I was in awe) with meals at Moxies Restaurant (located in many Sandman Hotels), etc included.

I was picked up from the airport by the courtesy van; I was driven to the ceremony by Alisha (Jessie & Crystal's stepsister who lives near Toronto and came with her children to see me at the hotel); I was driven back from the ceremony by friends of one of the Walk With Me volunteers; and I was driven back to the airport by Timea Navy from Walk With Me, we had a chance to visit before I left. I was treated so well. The people at the hotel treated me like I was a celebrity. They all knew who I was when I got there and they ensured I was lacking nothing. I recommend to anyone going to Toronto to stay at the Sandman Signature Airport Hotel.

The people who were rewarded for their work with human trafficking victims and trying to change the way human trafficking is viewed in this day-and-age as the true crime it is - one of the top 3 money-making crimes in the world - after drugs and weapons were an amazing group of people - from a Chief of Police to an MP to a Professor (and one of Canada's leading human trafficking victims) to Salvation Army Workers & workers at FCJ Refugee Center (among many others) to reporters to survivors of this horrific crime who now work with organizations that help other victims (like Timea Nagy's organization Walk With Me - like Naomi Baker's organization CFHT-Canada Fight's Human Trafficking . . . among many others).

When I was at my table, I was fortunate to be seated with 2 people who worked at the Salvation Army - one in Brantford and one in Hamilton - and their spouses. No wonder they received awards. Like the police officers and others there that night, they were being honoured not just because of their work, but also because they all go over and above their 'call of duty' - or their 'job descriptions'. Some of them taking cash out of their own bank accounts to ensure that the victims are able to eat, buy clothes, see a doctor, get an apartment. That is not something that comes 'with the job'. It comes 'from the heart'.

The ceremony ran much longer than expected. Partially because there were a couple of guests of honour who ran a bit late arriving at the ceremony, but mostly because it was very hard for the recipients to keep their thank you speeches to two minutes and under. IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE. There was so much to say, to be grateful for and everyone wanted to ensure they said all they needed to. Most of what was said was to honour Timea, (she was even presented with an award of her own from someone who was invited to attend - and that was a very emotional time). When the wonderful, tearful, heartfelt ceremony was over, I was asked to cut the 1 Year Birthday Cake for Walk With Me. Wow - that was a special moment. It was my Award - it was my Honour.

And when that was done, there were some pictures taken (thankfully, because my battery died about half an hour into the ceremony - talk about a bummer, but that's ok) and a chance for people to mingle and talk. Armand La Barge, the Chief of the York Regional Police came up to me, gave me a hug and his card. He told me that if I ever needed him for anything, just call. He told that to Timea one time, and she did - and he helped her every way he could. I was very encouraged by this.

While I was talking to Chief La Barge, MP Joy Smith from Kildonan - St. Paul, Manitoba came up to me, grabbed my hand and then gave me a huge hug. She told me she needs me to speak at her committee meeting - "all expenses paid, of course," she said. She is trying to get bill C-268 - Child Trafficking Bill, a bill she wrote and is trying to pass to ensure Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for people convicted of trafficking people 18 years old and younger (we start with the minors, then we change the laws for the one trafficking adults). Perhaps this is what I was meant to do. Travel around, talking to people about Jessie's case and educating them on human trafficking. Maybe I was meant to bring awareness to Canada and the world about this horrific crime. That is a lot for me, but you know - if it was meant to be, who am I to argue . . . right!! And when we get Jessie back, she will be like Timea Nagy - we will have our organization, and Jessie will be the one helping others as we were helped.

I want to take this time to thank our supporters - our family and friends - who have followed the suggestions of sending in a donation of $1, $2 or $5 and they will add up.

I have also had several people send in money for our raffle tickets - $10 each or 3 for $25 (the draw will be made on Jessie's 26th birthday, May 27, 2010).

We have our fundraiser in Edmonton at the Comedy Factory next Saturday, April 24, 2010 - 1st show at 8:00PM and 2nd show at 10:30PM. This is the next thing I want to attend in person, and I need to try to have enough to rent a car for the weekend (it won't be much), so Jim can drive me up there. It will be cheaper than a return bus ticket (nearly $200) and we will have more control over when where we go there and come home. I know without a doubt we will be able to do this. The fundraiser at the Comedy Factory in September 2007 was very successful.

I have been asked by a woman to go out to Calgary to try to help her with her daughter, who she believes is being 'recruited' and is in need of my help. I told her anything I can do. She told me she will pay for my flight there if/when we do this. The alternative is her talking to Timea and Timea getting her the help she has already got from her contacts there. That will help and I hope save this young woman. This is what I was meant to do.

Also, one of my daughter's friends in Calgary has contacted me about a human trafficking training at her work, she told me the first name of the expert coming there to do the training, and she said she told her boss about Jessie and they want to talk about Jessie's case, too. The name of the person she mentioned was Naomi, I was certain she meant Ms. Baker from CFHT, and it seems that I may be right. We were talking about it, and we are going to see if they will also pay for me to go to Calgary for this session. If so, I will be more than happy to go to where this all started. To the city of Calgary where Jessie met the person who took her to the USA and left her there.

Well, everyone. Thank you for your time and remember to share this with your friends and post it on your sites, blogs and forums - and if you are one of the wonderful media people who have been following Jessie's case, PLEASE, PLEASE - can we do an update with all this? Jessie's case is getting bigger and bigger, almost by the day sometimes. Jessie has been called one of Western Canada's most famous human trafficking cases by Professor Benjamin Perrin from UBC and one of Canada's leading human trafficking experts (his book about human trafficking in Canada will be out this fall with Jessie's case mentioned in it). And one of Canada's most famous human trafficking cases by Timea Nagy, Executive Director and Founder of Walk With Me, and a victim/survivor herself.

When Jessie went missing and I called her a human trafficking victim, people thought I was a very distraught mom grasping at anything and everything for answers - but they also thought I watched too much CSI and Law & Order - and that this was a crime that happened in 3rd world countries, not in North America and certainly not in Canada. Now people tell me about the latest human trafficking story they just heard about in the news and they tell me they feel in their hearts that Jessie is alive and will be found. Just as I feel.

The support I got this week from police who know about real human trafficking cases and a member of parliament who knows all too well about human trafficking victims and the criminals getting off with a slap on the wrist was the support I have been receiving from our family and friends and the network 'out there' on the Internet - and from our Kamloops & District Crime Stoppers and know I will be getting the support from people like Radio NL and Sandman and corporations who will be able to help me, financially, to do what needs to be done. Whoever helps us will become the most famous corporation in Western Canada or even all of Canada for helping the family and friends of the most famous Canadian human trafficking victim. For helping Glendene, the mother of Canada's Poster Child for Human Trafficking, JESSIE FOSTER.

REMEMBER: DRUGS are used once. WEAPONS are used several times. HUMANS BEINGS are used over and over and over again and again and again. Human trafficking is people TRICKING, LURING, COERCING OR RECRUITING innocent victims to get them to leave their families, homes and countries and then they are forced to work with LITTLE or NO pay at jobs that are very exploitative.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, 3rd only to Drugs and Weapons - but gaining. The United Nations have estimated that the Slave Trade's worth is nearly $40 billion a year for the sale of humans and the value of their exploited labour. It has become the fastest growing criminal industry worldwide. Most of the slaves brought into the USA (like Jessie was) end up as labourers; domestic servants; strippers; or prostitutes - all of them are degraded; beaten; or worse.

Think about this: if you are forced to do a job you don't want to; for little or no pay; without the option of leaving; if you are beaten (or worse); if you are not fed properly; if you are forced to sleep on a mat - IT IS NOT A JOB. You are a human trafficking victim. Many people living this exact life are too afraid to say anything because they have been brainwashed; beaten; drugged so much that you do not know who to trust. You think if you say or do anything they will to get your mother; sister; daughter. We need to ensure there are safe havens for these victims so when they are rescued they are not too afraid to trust the people helping them. So they will come back to testify against the person who did this to them. This is not something that just happens. It is a process and the victims need to be allowed to go through this process in order to come out of it a healthy person - mentally, emotionally and physically. So they will be able to carry on as productive citizens of their communities. They have a lot to teach others and they are needed for us to learn about what happens so we can be prepared - so we can provide help.

Again, thank you all for your continued support. Without it I would still be stuck feeling the same way I felt the day I realized my child was missing on March 29, 2006. I would not be doing all I do for so many others finding themselves where I found myself over 4 years ago. Sincerely, Glendene Grant.